I was in the middle of lunge-and-bicep curl combinations in my fave new class (more on that soon) when the idea came to me – reviewing Equinox and its classes! When we first moved to NYC, it took me some time to get used to the idea of paying so much for a gym membership. Living in DC (and later, Baltimore), I had been lucky enough to either have Washington Sports Club heavily subsidized through work or gyms in my apartment buildings. In NYC, we’ve found that a decent gym will cost at least $100 per month. Now, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and there are plenty of sources (Fitness NYC, Buns of Steal) that can provide more info than me. We didn’t do a wide search on gyms either. Husband’s company subsidizes membership of a few (Equinox, New York Sports Club, and New York Health & Racquet), so we chose between those three. Before we moved, I had a one-club membership for the location at 19th Street and Broadway in Flatiron. After moving to Brooklyn, I upgraded to all-access membership, meaning I could use any gym in the country. Here is a list of my Pros/Cons for Equinox.
*Cleanliness and amenities
I’ve read enough horror stories (and paid attention in college Microbiology) to be thoroughly scared of MRSA
infections. That is to say, the fear of picking one up from a dirty gym weight was enough to put a clean gym at the top of my priority list. Every Equinox I’ve visited is really, really clean. Attendants are always vacuuming and wiping down machines in common areas and the locker room. At peak times (weekday evenings), the cardio machines can get a little yuck, but for the most part, the equipment is clean and people are good about wiping everything after use. I do wish they kept antibacterial wipes around…sometimes I’ll wet a towel with some antibacterial foam (from the various dispensers around) and wipe a machine down myself. But from most personal accounts, I gather that Equinox is one of the cleaner gyms in the city, and you pay a premium for it.
This premium also gets you some great amenities. Fluffy, clean towels are always available. Eucalyptus-soaked towels – once only a summer staple – are neatly rolled and stored in mini fridges for cooling off year round. The locker room is stocked with razors, tampons, mouthwash, cotton balls, swabs, spray deodorant, and hairspray. The showers feature Kiehl’s shampoo, conditioner, and body wash…and there are always at least 3 huge dispensers of the cult Creme-de-Corps lotion around. I love that squeaky clean feeling from using tons and tons of glorious, foaming shampoo…and you can certainly get that here. Oh and there are plenty of Solano hairdryers to dry your hair in no time.
Equinox has a pretty wide variety of classes. Since I’m coordination-challenged, I tend to steer clear of anything too dance-y or complicated. That being said, I’ve surprised myself with the classes I have tried out and enjoyed. As far as spinning goes, the bikes are great (Schwinn bikes – most clubs are also adding output computers to the bikes). The instructors can be hit or miss, but those that are great have a large and loyal following. It seems that Equinox really keeps up with fitness trends as well – I’ve noticed classes such as Barre Burn (ballet moves with a weighted bar), Whipped (using weighted ropes), and Zumba (this is still a hot trend, no?). Classes I’ve tried and loved include Dawn Parker’s Body Sculpt, spin with Shaina Manning or Wil Ashley, James Darlings’ Pilates, Impact, and Kettlebells. I plan to review most of these soon…I often find that class descriptions can be vague and unhelpful, and usually turn to personal reviews to decide whether to try classes.
Whether you choose the one-gym or all-access options, the one thing we liked about Equinox was the plethora of locations around the city. Our old ‘home’ location was less than 10 minutes away, and our new location in Brooklyn is about 15 minutes walking (and right next to the subway). Husband has about 3 locations within easy walking distance of his Midtown office.
*Other pros: All of the locations I’ve been to have cafes (with food and smoothies), spas (never been, but my brother was once gifted a massage that he raved about), saunas in the bathroom (to sweat out some toxins before a shower)) and good music playing overhead (in case you forget your ipod or it dies mid-run).
I’m not gonna lie – this might be the most expensive gym in the city behind the Reebok gym and maybe the Exhale Spas. I’ve not seen many membership prices posted (even on yelp or citysearch), so I’ll post mine. We paid $139/month for a single-location membership (which I believe has increased at least $5) and now pay $175/month for all-access. I don’t remember whether we paid initiation fees, but I do know they usually have specials that reduce or eliminate the fees. I’ve heard that student memberships are around $145. Yeah, it’s a ton of $. But, we reason that since it’s for our health, for a clean and upscale gym, where we actually use the services and products, it’s worth it. Paying-as-you-go at the various yoga/pilates/cycling outlets around the city is just as, if not more expensive.
*Not all locations are created equal
I LOVED our last home location in Flatiron. It was clean, the layout was open and airy, there was a great variety of classes all day, and I just loved the locker rooms (the aisles were huge and the showers were big and spa-like). I had heard of the mythical awesomeness of the Soho location, and checked it out when I upgraded my membership. It paled in comparison. Maybe it’s just my general resistance to change and comfort level in gyms in general. It helps to read the reviews on yelp and citysearch when sussing out locations. One of the downsides to our current Brooklyn home location is that there aren’t as many classes offered as, say, Soho or Tribeca. I have no idea whether membership rates here are different from others around the city, but if you have the option, it might be good to visit a few locations before committing to one.
Other cons: None of the cardio machines have individual tvs on them, though there are many tvs positioned in front of the machines. I workout sans glasses (and rarely wear contacts), so unless I’m in the front row, watching tv isn’t an option. Peak times (early morning, after 6pm) can be crazy crowded. I suppose this isn’t unique to Equinox in a city of millions, but it’s worth noting (and sometimes annoying enough for me to workout at off-peak times).
Overall, we’re really happy with Equinox, and feel that it’s well worth the price. There are clubs in several cities (2 in the Miami area, where my in-laws live), which is an added bonus when/if we travel. This certainly isn’t an expansive comparison of gyms…just our personal experience. I have girlfriends that LOVE the classes and atmosphere at David Barton Gym and friends that are happy with New York Health & Racquet (I hear the new one on Park Ave. is super nice). Overall, cost and location should be your main decision factors, as well as your needs (you’re ‘no frills’ and just need some cardio and basic weight equipment VS. a class junkie). That being said, if you can swing it, it’s usually a nice mix of people (not just yuppies and ‘trophy wives’ like some accounts would lead you to believe).